by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 24th 2014)
Roy Hodgson rang in the changes – nine of them – for the final match of a disappointing World Cup campaign. It ended 0-0 against the supposed whipping boys Costa Rica. Jorge Pinto Alfanadorʼs team ignored the script and won the group by avoiding defeat. Arsenalʼs Joel Campbell Samuels was less impressive than in the previous two matches. Meanwhile, Liverpoolʼs Daniel Sturridge was the focal pint of Englandʼs attack.
Sturridgeʼs first chance was created by Jack Wilshere, but he shot wide twice in just over .the first 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Celso Borges 25 yards out free-kick was finger-tipped onto bar for corner by Ben Foster. England felt that they should have been awarded a spot-kick by Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi after 26 minutes.
The Obdurate Barrier
Wilshereʼs cross was nodded on by Ross Barkley to Sturridge, but Óscar Duarte Gaitán got his leg in front off Sturridgeʼs as the Liverpool striker prepared to shoot. Sturridge went over Duarteʼs leg, but no penalty was given. After 34 minutes Sturridge had another chance. Barkleyʼs corner was nodded on by Phil Jones and Sturridge headed it over.
The half ended with a route one effort from the Central Americans. Levanteʼs goalkeeper Keylor Navas Gamboa booted it 80 yards up the pitch, but Randall Brenes Moya lacked composure and his effort ballooned up into Fosterʼs arms.
Navas performed heroically, taking Sturridgeʼs studs in his leg as he bravely claimed at the strikerʼs feet three minutes into the second half as Luke Shawʼs cross ballooned up into the area. With just under an hour played Adam Lallana was played in behind the defence on the left. He squared it for Sturridge, but Navas intercepted before it could reach Sturridge.
Chris Smalling passed to Wilshere who found Sturridge, but the striker missed again from close range and with just over 20 minutes remaining Sturridge was poised to shoot, but an excellent tackle by Miguel Rodríguez Echevaria conceded a corner rather than the penalty some hoped for. Steven Gerrard was brought on for a few minutes – possibly his last appearance for England. His 88th minute cross was just too high for Wayne Rooney.
England could not find a way past Navas, who is enhancing his reputation with each match at this World Cup. Roy Hodgsonʼs hopes of going far in this competition are over. The three lions finished bottom of the group and Italy bid an acrimonious farewell to Brasil after Luis Suárez was accused of biting Giorgio Chielliniʼs shoulder.
There were controversies in Belo Horizonte too. Campbellʼs early shot was clearly deflected by Gary Cahillʼs hand – accidentally – yet the referee gave a goal-kick. The officials a lunge by Raheem Sterling on Gamboa, giving a corner where a card would have been appropriate. Haimoudi also insisted on pulling play back after Gamboa had broken free from Barkleyʼs attempts to swap shirts during play.
While the referee correctly booked Lallana and Giancarlo González for fouls on Bryan Ruiz González and Barkley respectively, the officials made too many mistakes that were easily exposed by replays. There was nothing as controversial as Frank Lampardʼs disallowed goal in this match, but too much is at stake in modern football for mistakes to be tolerated when they are so easy to correct.
Three former World champions Spain, England and Italy failed to make it out of the group stages, while unfancied Costa Rica top the group. Itʼs been an entertaining and strange World Cup so far.